I’ve been watching the TV series Rome recently and all I can say is, “Wow, did they ever like to fuck!” With every second scene featuring a long-haired beauty vigorously riding a well-muscled warrior, I often catch myself wondering how they managed to keep themselves safe from sexually transmitted infections. I mean, they didn’t have condoms back then did they?
Step 1: Foreplay
The use of condoms can be traced back as far as 1,000 B.C. when the Egyptians tested the waters using linen sheaths or oiled silk paper as an early form of condoms.
Sometime between 100- 200 A.D. the earliest visual evidence of condom use appeared. Cave paintings found in France suggest the use of condoms. There is also some evidence condoms were used by our frisky friends in the Roman Empire.
Step 2: Slide it on
In the 1500s, a syphilis epidemic led Gabrielle Fallopius to claim invention of a linen-sheath condom. Originally used to protect men against syphilis, it wasn’t initially realized that it could also prevent pregnancy.
It is speculated that in the 1700s the word ‘condom’ was christened when King Charles II’s doctor, whose name was allegedly Condom, invented the handy device to help the king from accidentally planting his seed every which way. However, it’s more likely that it comes from the Latin word for ‘receptacle.’
During Casanova’s reign over romance, people were beginning to ‘slide them on’ as condoms (or ‘English riding coats’ as Casanova called them) were traded and advertised. The use of animal intestines to make condoms began in this period.
Step 3: Lubricate
Things really started to get slick in the 1800s with a revolution in the manufacture of condoms in Europe and the United States. The discovery of vulcanized rubber allowed for faster and cheaper rubber condom production.
‘Dr. Power’s French Preventatives’ was the first printed ad for condoms, published in The New York Times in 1861. Less then a decade later the Cornstock Law made any advertising or mail order of birth control illegal.
Step 4: Stick it in
The 1900s gave way to the thinner latex condom, product expansion, and the very first lubricated condom in 1957, created by Durex.
Along with the sexual revolution of the 60s came the invention of the pill and other birth control methods. At this time condoms started to lose their appeal, contributing to the rise of sexually transmitted infections amongst the free-lovers of the time.
With HIV’s arrival on the scene in the 80s, condom-use regained some swagger, as did condom advocacy, advertisement and sales. The little latex packages were readily available in pubs, bars, grocery stores, and supermarkets – pretty much anywhere you might be reminded of that tingling urge.
The female condom and polyurethane male condom were made available in the early 90s.
Step 5: Spread the love
The availability and variety of condoms today is astounding. Technological advances allow for a more natural sensation with thinner condoms. Condom varieties like ribbed, studded and flavored can actually enhance sex lives.
I know that I, for one, would take a cherry-flavored warming-sensation condom that’s going to tickle me in all the right spots over a pig intestine or strip of leather any day…
So strap on your favorite ‘English Riding Coat’ and feel free to ride. Condoms have you covered!
This article was submitted by Jess Howat. Jess was a practicum student at AIDS Calgary in March. She is currently working towards a Communication Studies degree between SAIT and the University of Calgary.